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«A Colloquium to Advance the Practice of Conserving Modern Heritage March 6–7, 2013 Meeting Report Kyle Normandin and Susan Macdonald A Colloquium ...»

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Experts Meeting

A Colloquium to Advance

the Practice of Conserving

Modern Heritage

March 6–7, 2013

Meeting Report

Kyle Normandin and Susan Macdonald

A Colloquium to Advance the Practice

of Conserving Modern Heritage

The Getty Center, Los Angeles, California

March 6-7, 2013

Kyle Normandin and Susan Macdonald



© 2013 J. Paul Getty Trust The Getty Conservation Institute 1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 700 Los Angeles, CA 90049-1684 United States Telephone 310 440-7325 Fax 310 440-7702 E-mail gciweb@getty.edu www.getty.edu/conservation Production editor: Gail Ostergren Copy editor: Sylvia Tidwell Cover: Unité d'Habitation, Berlin, Le Corbusier (1956-58), as seen in 2010.

Photo: Manfred Brückels, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (licensed under: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported).

The Getty Conservation Institute works internationally to advance conservation practice in the visual arts— broadly interpreted to include objects, collections, architecture, and sites. The GCI serves the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, model field projects, and the dissemination of the results of both its own work and the work of others in the field. In all its endeavors, the GCI focuses on the creation and delivery of knowledge that will benefit the professionals and organizations responsible for the conservation of the world’s cultural heritage.

A Colloquium to Advance the Practice of Conserving Modern Heritage Organized under the banner of the Getty Conservation Institute’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative (CMAI), the Colloquium to Advance the Practice of Conserving Modern Heritage brought together professionals and practitioners to examine the current state of the field and identify areas of outstanding need in order to develop actions to advance practice in this area of conservation.

Purpose and Objectives Despite increased recognition of modern architecture’s cultural significance and more than twenty-five years of effort by government heritage agencies, nonprofit institutions, and professional organizations dedicated to the conservation of this heritage, there are still challenges to securing its protection and conservation.

Therefore, it is timely to reflect on how the practice of conserving modern architecture has advanced, so as to identify where future efforts should be concentrated. This need was the catalyst for the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, launched in March 2012 by the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). The CMAI has defined areas that may contribute to the development of conservation practice, including research, the creation and dissemination of information, model projects, capacity building, and training and education.

Many of the characteristics of modern architecture—such as the use of new and innovative construction methods and materials, the role of architecture in social reform, and the development of new building types and forms—challenge traditional conservation approaches and raise new methodological and philosophical issues. Tackling these issues effectively requires leadership, strategic research, and negotiation with industry to develop appropriate repair techniques that translate research into practice and achieve conservation aims. A concerted effort is needed to collect and distribute existing information, to identify areas where knowledge is lacking, and to gather information to fill in those gaps.

To address this need, the GCI designed and organized a two-day colloquium

that brought together professionals and organizations with a demonstrated knowledge of this subject to identify ways that the practice of conserving modern heritage might progress. Key objectives were to:

• examine actions undertaken over the last twenty-five years in order to assess the current state of practice of conserving modern heritage;

• identify and prioritize current needs;

• identify potential actions to meet these needs;

• identify entities and potential collaborators to undertake the actions; and

• create a plan for the conservation sector to use to implement the identified work.

A Colloquium to Advance the Practice of Conserving Modern Heritage

–  –  –

The invited participants were critical thinkers and key players who have been influential in the conservation of modern heritage or who have the potential to be so in the future. This multidisciplinary gathering brought together architects, conservators, scientists, educators, historians, and allied practitioners, including representatives from key organizations and institutions with a specific interest in this area of heritage conservation. Short biographies of the speakers, moderators, and rapporteurs can be found in appendix A, and all participants are listed in appendix B. A small number of observers attended the program’s joint sessions.

Meeting Format and Structure

The colloquium was organized around four themes: philosophy and approach;

physical conservation challenges; education and training; and identification, assessment, and interpretation. In preparation for the colloquium, position papers on each theme were prepared by selected authors and circulated in advance. These papers, as well as a series of case studies elucidating the themes, were presented on the first day to provide a foundation for subsequent discussions. Abstracts of the case studies are given in appendix C. Appendix D contains the full texts of the four position papers.

On the morning of the second day, participants were divided into four discussion groups, each covering one of the four thematic areas. The groups were charged with identifying important issues, proposing responses, and then formulating specific, prioritized actions, as well as suggesting organizations or institutions that might undertake the actions. In order to catalyze the conversation, issues raised in the position papers were presented to the groups at the beginning of the sessions, and each group was also given prompt questions derived from issues raised in the papers. These questions can be found in appendix E. The discussions were led by moderators, and two rapporteurs were assigned to each group to capture and summarize outcomes. Photos of the meetings appear in appendix F. The discussion sessions concluded with participants individually identifying the four responses and specific actions that they viewed as most important. Because many responses and actions might take considerable time to implement, each participant also identified four that could be achieved relatively quickly while still advancing the field.

Next, in a ninety-minute session, the moderators and rapporteurs of each group distilled and summarized the issues raised and the actions proposed and prepared a PowerPoint report detailing the most critical issues and responses. Appendix G contains all four of the working group reports.

On the afternoon of the second day, during the colloquium’s final, general session, the rapporteurs presented each working group’s key findings and priority actions. The presentations covered the broad issues and possible responses to them, recommendations for specific actions, and suggestions of organizations or institutions to undertake the actions.

The group presentations were followed by an open discussion with all participants during which additional issues were identified, and priorities for action began to emerge. After receiving input from all four working groups in the general discussion, participants were asked to select the two short- and two long-term actions A Colloquium to Advance the Practice of Conserving Modern Heritage they viewed as most important. The top two long-term and short-term actions from each theme are summarized in appendix H.

Colloquium Themes: A Summary of Position Papers and Case Studies The meeting was organized around the four themes presented below.

Theme 1: Philosophy and Approach Within the field, there is an ongoing discussion as to whether the philosophical approach to conserving modern heritage should be different from that used for the heritage of other eras. The conversation has been influenced by improved access to primary sources of information, enhanced documentation, industrialization, and emerging architectural approaches. Issues related to material conservation and design intent have long been debated, and the question of where the values-based approach fits into this discussion remains to be answered. A fundamental inquiry is whether modern heritage actually needs its own conservation philosophy. The primary goal in the discussion of this theme was to identify ways of establishing a shared approach among practitioners of modern heritage conservation and to specify measures needed to achieve this.

To establish a framework for discussions, the paper presented by Susan Macdonald, “Integrating Modern Heritage into the Continuum of Conservation Practice,” examined the standards and norms used in practice today and discussed their applicability to the conservation of modern architecture. She asked whether it is important to achieve some degree of universality in our approach. The case study of the Toronto Towers, presented by Michael McClelland, illustrated how a city council has managed to integrate the conservation of large-scale postwar housing into a broader urban planning framework that meets current sustainability demands.

Recognizing the urban and social significance of the housing rather than using a building-by-building fabric conservation approach resulted in a successful outcome. Sheridan Burke’s case study of the Sydney Opera House illustrated how a reengagement with the building’s original architect influenced the development of the long-term conservation management framework for this World Heritage site.

Burke’s paper also demonstrated a typical conservation methodology that can assist in balancing conservation priorities with ongoing pressures related to the building’s function, visitor management, and financially driven needs.

Theme 2: Physical Conservation Challenges

The explosion of building technology starting in the late nineteenth century led to innovative building forms and construction materials that now pose new conservation challenges. This theme explored the approaches needed to advance the field in relation to environmental, technical, and physical conservation. Case study presentations focused on techniques and treatments that provided balanced and measured approaches to conservation and on work aimed at addressing common challenges.

Presenters identified work that is currently being done in the conservation of modern building technologies and materials, ways in which current research addresses A Colloquium to Advance the Practice of Conserving Modern Heritage conservation challenges, and areas where improvements can be made to advance practice.

The position paper presented by Kyle Normandin, “Physical Conservation Challenges Facing Modern Architecture,” discussed the challenges relating to the physical conservation of modern buildings. Central to the discussion was the examination of the life span and conservation of modern building materials and the challenges inherent in sustaining the service life of modern buildings. The paper considers ways in which practitioners can improve their approach to maintaining these buildings through the investigation of systemic problems related to unique building materials widely used in the Modern era. Wessel de Jonge’s case study on the Zonnestraal Sanatorium demonstrated many of the issues—specifically the temporal nature of many of the material aspects of the building—and showed how careful examination and a sound understanding of the building itself can result in a successful outcome. Myriam Bouichou of France’s Historical Monuments Research Laboratory presented current material investigation and research work relating to concrete conservation for listed monuments. The presentation discussed material deficiencies that were encountered and shared responses and solutions the organization is developing to address this common conservation problem.

Theme 3: Education and Training

Over the last ten to fifteen years, a number of educational institutions have begun to address the conservation of modern heritage. What are the current needs? What are the target audience groups? What type of education, training, and capacity building are needed to advance the field? Case study presentations focused on current education and training initiatives that respond to the needs of practitioners, and they reviewed successful course frameworks that provide a good understanding of the history, architectural types, and character-defining elements of modern architecture of the 1940s to the 1970s. Presenters identified challenges encountered in the process of conservation, restoration, and adaptive reuse of twentieth-century buildings and identified improvements that could be made in education and training to advance conservation practice.

Theodore Prudon presented the position paper “Education and Training in the Conservation of Modern Architecture,” which he coauthored with Jeffrey W. Cody.

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